FES Peace Dialogue And Need For Security, Peace In West Africa, By Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung

Over the years, it has become imperative that, besides a working economy, social infrastructure, education and a number of other indicators which define the idea people have of a ‘peaceful’ society, the presence and embrace of peace itself is, above every other, needed for our societies to function as they ought to.

Since West African countries gained independence, they have recorded a number of armed, intra-state conflicts, marked by five, large-scale, civil wars.

With the dawn of the 21st Century cam a sharp drop, marking a water-shed in the political stabilisation of the region. In the place of the former form of violence came election-related violence, long-standing ethno-national conflict, drug trafficking, maritime piracy, extremism, youth inclusion, migration, the rapid development of extractive industries and land management etc., sparking fears over the region’s development.

West Africa has come into her own over time, as far as democratisation, economy and regional cooperation are concerned but sadly, total peace has eluded the region, though efforts to prevent conflicts have also improved, contributing to overall stability.

It was against this back-drop that, between July 11 and 12, 2018, in Abuja, over 50 peace and security experts and practitioners on West Africa, drawn from the academia, security structures and various institutions, West Africa policymakers, civil society organisation (CSOs) and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), participated in the First Abuja Dialogue convened by the Peace and Security Competence Centre Sub-Saharan Africa and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES),in Abuja, Nigeria. The experts represented a diverse field of high-level policy influencers conversant with peace and security, mediation, conflict resolution, disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration, governance, development and gender mainstreaming.

The convener, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, is a German non-profit organisation dedicated to the development of the ideas and values of social democracy. That core value and focus informed the theme of the conference, “Understanding the Reasons for Insecurity in West Africa: Need to Promote Collective Security through Stakeholder’s Engagement and Constructive Exchanges.” The objective was to “contribute to a better understanding of the dynamics and drivers of (violent) conflict and insecurity in West Africa and to provide new knowledge on how best to achieve sustainable security.”

The Abuja Dialogue was convened against the backdrop of the incremental and pervasive peace and security challenges, such as agro-pastoral conflicts, the Boko Haram insurgency, terrorism and organised crimes, fragility of State and lack of governance confronting some countries of the West Africa and Sahel region, despite the existence of various mechanisms aimed at addressing such conflicts. Affected countries which were presented as case studies or reference points included, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea Bissau, Mali and Nigeria. Since some post-conflict situations and new conflicts in the region were festering, the inevitable question which the dialogue sought to address was why certain conflicts, especially pastoral herdsmen conflict and Boko Haram insurgency, armed militias persist, despite the existence of Early Warning Systems (EWS) and conflict prevention and conflict resolution mechanisms meant for addressing such conflicts.

Relatedly, why were existing frameworks and mechanisms, laid down by African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA), the African Governance Architecture (AGA), structures such as, African Union, ECOWAS, ECCAS, Mano River Union, Lake Chad Basin Commission, the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJFT) the G-5 Sahel, proving operationally inadequate and not delivering the expected results?

For maximum interaction and productivity, the Abuja Dialogue was structured to be interactive and to facilitate seamless exchange of ideas.

The outcome and the takeaways from the conference are a reflection the complexities of the conflicts bedeviling West Africa and the Sahel and why the extant conflict resolution panaceas are seemingly ineffective. The gaps between early warning and response, existing peace and security architecture and conflict resolution mechanisms, were all pointed out as challenges to achieving long-term peace in the region, mainly because one-size did not fit all.

Resolutions from the conference indicate that development aid need to be channeled towards lagging regions and addressing perceptions of inequity in access to opportunities. Focusing investments where conditions are best risks making already-tense situations worse. Cross-border economic exchanges and collaboration may be useful. Improved land management and a strong, continuous addressing of grievances linked to land access is needed. In order to do away with the ‘resource curse’, extractives discoveries can be given greater attention, seeing as they are prone to conflict risks. This will help manage community and regional grievances as well as corruption.

Other recommendations made by the conference included improvement in the management of migrants, significant investments in basic and technical education to increase the size of the skilled labour force and improve livelihoods for young people, provision of more support to ECOWAS and other regional institutions by member countries, strengthening of local government structures to improve citizens’ participation, social accountability, transparency and better services.

While these recommendations were welcomed, it was highlighted that the need to replicate or borrow from working, progressive mechanisms from within and outside Africa would go a long way in helping to provide a blue-print.

It was advocated that any reframing of conflict resolution mechanisms should be centered on civil society, and that such shift in response, should lay greater emphasis on preventive mechanisms rather than peacekeeping. Notably, amnesty, DDR and SSR programmes, depending on the locality, needed to be redesigned or adapted to fit particular conflicts, reflect local realities, involve stakeholders and communities and understand their plight. There was an urgent need for the deployment of alternative dispute mechanisms (ADR) and establishing traditional dispute mechanisms. While peace education was imperative, sensitivity to gender and the aged remained vital, as was handling of war victims and amnesty beneficiaries, especially child soldiers.

Also, enhanced community involvement and ownership of processes are important to avoid politicians taking advantage of conflicts. The need for conceptual clarity and the rethinking conceptual framework for conflict resolution mechanisms in order to adapt them to local terminologies and realitieswere underlined. That an approach was expected to create alternative space, a sense of ownership and inclusivity and a better definition and understanding of who the non-state actors and beneficiaries are. It is important to build on and expand “resilience models” by replicating and domesticating those models that are effective at the national and state levels at the local and community levels. It was necessary to avoid pitfalls of signing accords in which the local parties were not involved or signatories. Policies needed to be e-governance compliant,for access and tracking.

Since state and government apparatus are distinct entities, it should be recognised that the absence of governmental presence did not equate with “ungoverned space” in conflict theaters. Most spaces are governed, as such, there is need to avoid creating the impression that there were “two societies” – the insiders and the outsiders in post-conflict environments. This is also pertinent in the dispensation of justice. Restorative justice should be explored and multi-door courts put in place for easy access. Those involved in war crimes should be prosecuted equally.

Absence of a bond of performance between government and the governed often resulted in lack of trust and respect for constituted authority. Preferential dispensation of justice affected trust. It was emphasized that peace building at any level was contingent on good governance and trust. Building trust via confidence building measures (CBMs) will be critical to overcoming myths and the prevailing sense of “perpetrators versus victims” and reconciling communities. The need to avoid extra-judicial and so-called jungle justice was reiterated.

As alternative mechanisms, the “Peace Council” used in Ghana, and the Gacaca Court used in Rwanda were considered good models for attaining sustainable peace. There was added emphasis on investing more on structural peace adjustment. The expanded use of ‘Peace Ambassadors’ was also recommended.

Peace in Africa is not elusive and, while no one body has the final say on the blueprint for peace in the region, experiments can begin on what works and what does not; for it is only from trying that we can get the perfect picture. Not trying is far worse and, given that the future of our continent and region rests on us and no other, we would do well to work, strive and preach peace. It is only in the peace of the region that everything else can prosper.

Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung wrote from Abuja

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Peace Never Left Us, We Left Peace Behind By Ademuyiwa Adebola Taofeek

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Sheriff, Makarfi Seek Support for New PDP Peace Initiatives

The national chairman of a faction of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Ali Modu Sheriff has expressed his support for a new peace effort aimed at resolving the lingering crisis in the party.

A sign that all is not yet entirely well for the PDP came when Sheriff insisted that his faction’s governorship candidate in Ondo State, Jimoh Ibrahim remained the candidate of the party.

Speaking to journalists at his temporary office in Abuja, Sheriff said that the ongoing peace plan had his backing and that both him and Senator Ahmed Makarfi had discussed and agreed to form a 28-man reconciliation committee to fasttrack efforts at final resolution of the crisis.

“Myself and Makarfi met some time ago to discuss the ways forward after founders and leaders of the party have spoken to us asking us to find lasting solution to the crisis in the party. That is why when we issued the statement stating that without prejudices to the ongoing court cases.

Sheriff who said that he had been away for more than two weeks told journalists on Friday in Abuja, that the peace plan is on course and that both he and Senator Makarfi would be inaugurating a 24-member peace and reconciliation committee on Tuesday.

He also said that none of the contending parties in the dispute was making any special demands, but that the national secretary of his faction, Prof. Wale Oladipo will be interfacing with the Secretary of the Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee, Senator Ben Obi to draw–up the framework for engagement before the Tuesday’s inauguration.

While giving an assurance that the peace initiatives would pull through this time around, Sheriff said that almost every stakeholder of the party was interested to see an end to the crisis.

Sheriff said that both sides were at the moment compiling lists of those that would make up members of the peace committee.

“It is true that we have agreed to find a lasting solution to PDP crisis. Before I traveled we had agreed on somethings and that was why Senator Makarfi went to speak with some members of the National Assembly on the new peace move. Whatever was contained in that statement is a true reflection of what we discussed and agreed upon. We are going to set up a 28-man committee, 14 each from both sides. The committee will be inaugurated next Tuesday. Their mandate is to fashion out the modalities and ways of moving the party forward,”

“Everybody is interested to see the PDP back on its feet. There is no political party that is like the PDP. It is the lack of internal democratic practice that has put the country in its present position

” For now, no one has taken position yet, we are still discussing and we have asked the national secretary draw our own list, while the caretaker committee is drawing its own. It is the reconciliation committee that will come up with modalities for reconciling everyone.

“It is because of the lack of internal democracy that brought the party to where it is at the moment. We must give the party back to the people who own it and we must allow people to choose their leaders. All the problems that we have been having were caused by neglect of internal democracy. Unless we do what is right, this country cannot get it right. We want to get things right and with that the party can return to winning elections,” he said.

On the role of the BoT under the new peace deal, the former Borno State governor said the organ was the driver of the present initiative because they failed to play their role as unbiased umpire, adding that the party may consider involving some of the BoT when constituting the reconciliation committee.

When we are constituting the committee, we take every interest into consideration, including the governors. We are not going to isolate anyone under the new arrangement.


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Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos Wins 2016 Nobel Peace Prize

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in achieving a peace deal with the FARC rebels and ending a 52-year-long conflict.

Santos’ win came as a surprise after Colombians voted “No” to an agreement he signed with Marxist rebels to end 52 years of war.

Reuters reports that Santos had promised to revive a peace plan even though Colombians, in a referendum on Sunday, narrowly rejected the accord. Many voters reckoned it was too lenient on the FARC guerrillas.

The Nobel Peace Prize, a gold medal, a diploma and a cheque worth 8 million Swedish crowns ($930,000), will be presented in Oslo on December. 10 at a ceremony tp mark the anniversary of the 1896 death of prize creator Alfred Nobel, a Swedish philanthropist and scientist.

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Bama: As Peace Returns To Borno By Funmilola Ajala

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Tambuwal To Resolve Tinubu-Oyegun Rift As Buhari, Others Back Peace Move

Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal, has offered to help resolve the rift between the national chairman of the All Progresisives Congress (APC), John Oyegun and the party’s national leader, Aiwaju Bola Tinubu.

It would be recalled that Tinubu had asked Oyegun to resign his position as the chairman of the party following the alleged manipulation of the Ondo state governorship primary election.

Tinubu specifically alleged that Oyegun helped in perpetrating the alleged fraud that characterised the primaries, stating that he was leading the APC down the path of internal tyranny.

But while Oyegun in his reply simply described the allegation by Tinubu as untrue choosing not to join issues with him because he is a respected leader of the party, governor Tambuwal offered to mediate betwen the duo to prevent the rift from further degenerating.

Tambuwal was said to have visited President Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential villa to seek his blessing for the task of resolving the crisis.

Although the governor refused to divulge the reason for his meeting with the president, he was said to have briefed the president on his planned peace mission, a move the president endorsed.

It was also learnt that beside the president, leaders of the party including governors, legislators, elders, etc have also thrown their weight behind the speedy resolution of the fued as they are clearly unhappy about the developments in the party.

It remains to be seen how Tambuwal will forge ahead with the reconciliation of both parties.

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Peace Returns To PDP As Sheriff, Makarfi Reconciles

The crisis rocking the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, appears to be reaching its end as the two factions jostling for the soul of the party on Tuesday resolved to work together.

The Ahmed Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee of the PDP and a faction of the party led by Ali Modu Sheriff met in Abuja where they agreed to put their differences behind them to enable it to perform its role as a viable opposition platform.

Both factions later appeared at a joint news briefing in Abuja on Tuesday where they disclosed the new understanding.

They said they would now embark on extensive consultations with their respective loyalists to fashion out a way to cement the new unity after about four months of bitter rivalry.

The caretaker committee was led to the meeting by its National Secretary, Ben Obi, while Cairo Ojougbo, the deputy national chairman of the Sheriff faction, led its members.

At the joint press conference, the groups said they had resolved to bring about a united, focused and constructive opposition party in order to achieve sanity in the nation’s democratic process.

According to Mr. Ojougboh, who read the text of the conference, the groups also agreed to constitute a joint committee which would embark on a holistic reconciliation of the aggrieved members of the party nationwide.

He said, “In reviewing the crisis that has engulfed our party, the PDP since the loss of the 2015 general elections, after 16 years of uninterrupted leadership at the centre, it became obvious to both of us as principal actors that it is time to heal the wounds, and bring about a united, focused and constructive opposition party that can bring sanity to our democratic process, bringing relief to the teeming supporters of our great party, the PDP and to the benefit of our country Nigeria.

“Based on the above, we have both agreed to consult widely with all relevant organs of the party; set up a joint committee that will carry out a holistic reconciliation of all aggrieved segments of our party across the country and in diaspora; pursue the vision of the founding fathers of our great party the PDP.”

He said the groups asked their members to remain calm and refrain from actions and utterances that could further bring about division and dispute in the party.

It was the first time they would agree to work together since the party split into two factions after the national convention of the party in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, in May.

At the purported convention, Mr. Sheriff was removed as acting national chairman of the party and replaced with Mr. Makarfi.

The development led to conflicting court judgements on which of the groups was actually in control of the one ruling party.

In August, a meeting between the party’s Board of Trustees, backing the Makarfi faction, and the Sheriff faction, to resolve the contentious issues before the August 17 rescheduled convention, ended in a deadlock.

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The Riches of ‘Mama Peace’ By Sonala Olumhense

How much is Patience Jonathan worth?

You can keep your guess.  Here is mine: Goodluck Jonathan does not know.  Some people say, he dares not ask, but that is just hearsay.

What is important is: Patience has a general, and better idea.  General because it is one thing to invite a bank to your presence and open several accounts, it is another to be able to swear as to how much is actually in which account.

According to emerging accounts, pardon the pun, on March 22, 2010, Mrs. Jonathan opened four accounts at Skye Bank.  Actually, the bank, shepherded by one of her husband’s all-purpose “special advisers”, appeared in her presence to open the accounts.

His name: Waripamo Dudafa.  At the time, he carried the powerful label of “Special Adviser on Domestic Affairs” to Mr. Jonathan.  He it was who led to Mrs. Jonathan at home, two senior officers of Skye Bank: Demola Bolodeoku and Dipo Oshodi.  Her husband was Nigeria’s Acting President; in 43 days he would become President.

When you are as powerful as Mrs. Jonathan was, you do not go to the bank.  And so the bank came to Mrs. Jonathan.  Mission: to open five accounts for the First Lady.

People worldwide have been asking one question since this story broke: What kind of person opens five accounts in one bank in one day?

It is probably a silly question, but I will provide the answer: it is the kind of person who has, or is expecting more money than will fit into one account!

Anyhow, these are the facts we know.  It however seems that Mrs. Jonathan, who had the accounts opened in her presence, perhaps as she got her pedicure done or gave commands on the phone, somehow “discovered” that “Derring-Do” Dudafa had opened only one of the accounts in the name of the most powerful woman who ever ate eba with her right hand.

Yes: despite Mrs. Jonathan personally, and with that same right hand and an expensive pen signing the five accounts that night as Dr. Dame Chief (Mrs). Patience Fakabelema Jonathan, Mr. Derring-Do—in the equivalent of signing your own death warrant—allegedly opened not one, not two, not three but four, in the names of his own companies.

In other words, we have to suppose that all of the funds that Mrs. Jonathan labored so hard for before and during her First Ladyship, went to Mr. Dudafa four-fifths of the time.

It is unclear exactly when Dudafa performed on Mrs. Jonathan the dastardly bait and switch the “umblerah” party had perfected.  It is even less clear exactly when Mrs. Jonathan found out.

She may blame her husband.  Mr. Jonathan it was who early in 2014 appointed into the governorship of the Central Bank of Nigeria, one Godwin Emefiele.  But even though Patience had once declared as “brain-dead” Muhammadu Buhari, the man who would succeed her husband in office, Buhari somehow contrived to keep in office the said governor.

And Emefiele it was who superintended the Bank Verification Number (BVN) exercise in 2014, which is how the EFCC entered the story, leading to some account freezes.

And that, we assume, is how the news came to Mrs. Jonathan one day in that month: her high-value medical accounts of about $15 million (US) had been frozen.  By the EFCC.

That is news bad enough to make anyone wet their bed.  Not Mama Peace.  Instituting a legal challenge, she affirmed that each and every dollar in the accounts in question was hers.  $15m in “medical” money.

I have always said that the BVN exercise was fraudulent.  Were it honest, the government would have since the first few months of 2014 trapped so many wealthy Nigerians in their own vomit this country would have changed, no pun intended.

Okay, I know her husband insisted that stealing was no corruption, but think about it: Mrs. Jonathan is the first Politically Exposed Person to be openly—but only accidentally—linked with one of those huge chunks of funny money.

Last Thursday, the case became even more fascinating, as the four companies involved pleaded guilty to money-laundering.

Some housekeeping: For those who are neither old nor literate enough, Mrs. Jonathan and I are old acquaintances in this column.  It is nearly 10 years and 10 days since the EFCC seized from her the astounding sum of $13.5 million dollars, and accused her of money-laundering, the second such charge within one month.  Earlier, brandishing a court order, the agency had frozen N104 million she allegedly tried to launder.

At the time, Mr. Jonathan was the governor of Bayelsa State.  Nonetheless, as the EFCC bustled off to the Federal High Court in Abuja, I fully expected Mrs. Jonathan to end up in jail.

But despite all of the grandstanding, Mrs. Jonathan was not prosecuted.  As a matter of fact, it would appear that the EFCC quietly withdrew the cases and returned the confiscated funds to her, perhaps with a written apology.  The agency never offered an official report or explanation.

Back in the news 10 years later, Mrs. Jonathan, conveniently out of the country at the moment, wants back $15m she refers to as her medical money.  The authorities also found $5m in another account in her name after the first story broke.  She responded with a N200m “fundamental rights enforcement” action against Skye Bank Plc for giving to the EFCC information that was then used to “used to inconvenience and embarrass” her.

I believe Mrs. Jonathan has done Nigeria a big favour by claiming that the funds belong to her.  She should therefore be given the money, all of it.

First, however, she must establish how she earned it.   Let us remember: she does have a track record, including those 2006 EFCC seizures.  It is also on record that in its report on the 2007 election, the American Council on Foreign Relations described Mrs. Jonathan as the “greediest person in Bayelsa State.”

Greed: If she opened five accounts in one night while her husband was Acting President, how many did she have when she was establishing that reputation as Bayelsa’s worst, and how many when he became President?

Mrs. Jonathan is said to own Yenagoa’s Arisdorf N10billion Resort Wellness and Spa.  She has also been linked with a string of other properties, especially in Abuja, including the sprawling high-end but currently abandoned estate in Kado-Kuchi.  This is an opportunity not only for her to recover her so-called medical allowance, but her soiled reputation.

I am reminded of her thanksgiving service in Aso Rock in February 2013 when she confessed she had nearly died in hospital in Germany.  She said she suffered through eight or nine surgeries in one month, and had spent seven days in some sort of coma.

She then pledged to embark on “things that will touch the lives of the less privileged…[as God] gave me a second chance because I [died]…”

In my comment,  I challenged Mrs. Jonathan to show proof of her pledge.  Three years later, we have only evidence of astounding wealth she suggests she is entitled to, in the midst of extreme poverty.

The question is: who is going to ensure justice, not rhetoric?

Twitter: @SonalaOlumhense

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Govt Has Agreed To Release Kanu, Okah Brothers, Others In Peace Deal, Says MEND

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), says the Nigerian Govt as part of deal for a return of peace to the oil-rich Niger Delta has agreed to release several detained or imprisoned militants, including Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, Henry Okah, a MEND chieftain serving a jail sentence in South Africa, Charles Okah, and Obi Nwabueze.

In a statement issued Saturday, the militant group claimed that a team negotiating on behalf of the Federal Government agreed to the peace deal.

The statement disclosed that Mr. Kanu and other detained IPOB activists would be released on condition that they renounce their agitation for secession.

According to MEND, ex-Senator Adolphus Wabara had introduced the compromise to secure the release of the pro-Biafran agitators.

MEND also stated that the government’s negotiators had agreed not to arrest or harass fugitive ex-MEND militant, Government Ekpemupolo (popularly known as Tompolo), “whenever he makes himself available as a delegate of the MEND Aaron Team 2.”

In addition, the group stated that the government would review the life sentence meted out on Edmund Ebiware.

MEND declared itself the only militant group from the Niger Delta region presently engaged in a dialogue with the Federal Government of Nigeria, adding that oil companies and security agencies were representing the government in talks aimed at brokering peace in the region which has witnessed increasing attacks on oil facilities since President Muhammadu Buhari came to power in May 2015.

MEND stated that the agreement called for a review of “criminal charges against Urhobo freedom fighter, Mr. Kelvin Prosper Oniarah,” and the review of life sentences handed to seven soldiers in 2008 for supporting the Niger Delta struggle. The affected soldiers are Major Suleiman Alabi Akubo, Sergeant Mathias Peter, Lance Corporal Alexander Davou, Lance Corporal Moses Nwaigwe, Lance Corporal Nnandi Anene, Lance Corporal Taatihi Emmanuel, and Private Caleb Bawa.
Declaring the deliberations “fruitful,” MEND seemed to back military reprisals against the Niger Delta Avengers should the group refuse to stop attacking oil installations in the area. MEND’s statement declared, “one of the most immediate and urgent fall-outs of the ongoing dialogue is the imperative for the Federal Government and MEND to jointly and separately take proactive steps to rescue and secure the region in the event that the recalcitrant Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) continue on their senseless and politically-motivated path of attacks on the country’s oil assets.

“To this end, both parties agreed that the Special Forces of the Nigerian Army should commence the purely routine but strategic military exercise code-named ‘Operation Crocodile Tears’; while MEND would commence a meet-the Government-Actors-and-People tour of the Niger Delta region code-named ‘Operation Moses.’”

The statement continued: “While ‘Operation Crocodile Tears’ is aimed at ensuring the combat readiness of the Nigerian Army in Amphibious and Internal Security Operations in the Niger Delta as well as check
criminal activities like kidnapping, pipeline vandalism, piracy and other forms of criminal activities spearheaded by the NDA in the region, MEND’s ‘Operation Moses’ is essentially to inform, educate and generally sensitize the citizenry in the Niger Delta, particularly the Government, the youth, oil companies, elders and militant community on the need to ceasefire and support the President Muhammadu Buhari Administration in its determined bid to proffer sustainable solutions to the current Niger Delta crisis.”

MEND urged all states, local governments, oil and gas companies and the people of the Niger Delta region “to go about their lawful and legitimate concerns without any iota of fear as we have received FIRM ASSURANCES from the Federal Government that ‘Operation Crocodile Tears’ is an innocuous exercise in the national interest.”

It added, “Meanwhile, MEND’s ‘Operation Moses’ shall be anchored by the AARON TEAM 2 Dialogue, Peace & Development Initiative jointly led by Mr. Odein Ajumogobia (SAN) and HRH King Alfred Papapreye Diette-Spiff, the Amanyanabo of Twon-Brass in Bayelsa State.

“’Operation Moses’ shall commence with a visit by the distinguished members of the AARON TEAM 2 to President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House, Abuja between August 22, 2016 and August 26, 2016.

“Thereafter, the Team shall hold sessions with top executives of major indigenous and international oil & gas companies operating in Nigeria, including the state oil company, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) on August 29 and 30, 2016 in Abuja. The focus of those sessions shall include, to wit: Local content development; Petroleum Industry Bill; Corporate Social Responsibility/Host community relations, etc.

“On September 5 and 6, 2016 in Abuja the MEND Aaron Team shall hold sessions with the top echelon of security agencies in Nigeria as well as the top management of the intervention agencies in the Niger Delta, namely: Ministry of Niger Delta; Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and the Presidential Amnesty Office. The Minister of Justice/Attorney General of the Federation is expected to personally attend these sessions. The focus of the sessions shall include: Extension of presidential amnesty to certain categories of political prisoners in Nigeria; Fundamental Human Rights; NDDC Act in focus; Presidential Amnesty Proclamation 2009 in focus; collapse of federal infrastructure in the Niger Delta in focus; Calabar-Lagos rail line in focus; East/West Road in focus, etc.

“After these critical sessions, “Operation Moses” shall move to tour the 9 states in the Niger Delta region, commencing with Rivers state between September 12, 2016 and September 14, 2016. Between September 15, 2016 and September 18, 2016 the Aaron Team shall be in Bayelsa state. Between September19, 2016 and September 21, 2016 the Team shall be in Delta state. From Thursday September 22, 2016 to Sunday September 25, 2016 the Aaron Team shall be in Akwa Ibom state. Between September 26, 2016 and September 29, 2016 the Team shall be in Abia and Imo states. And finally, between October 3, 2016 and October 7, 2016 the Aaron Team shall be in Edo and Ondo states.

“The central clearing house for all activities connected with “Operation Moses” shall be the MEND Aaron Team 2 secretariat. Accordingly, the Secretary of the Team, Timipa Jenkins Okponipere, Esq., shall duly communicate with all concerned persons and institutions.

“Ultimately, peace and development in the Niger Delta region is the final destination of the ongoing dialogue between MEND and the Federal Government.”

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Aggrieved Senators Reject Saraki’s Peace Moves

In spite of fresh overtures with juicy committees, Senators opposed to the emergence of Dr. Bukola Saraki as the President of the Senate were yesterday insisted on seeing through the ongoing trial of Saraki and the Deputy Senate President, Chief Ike Ekweremadu.

They said the case was already beyond them since the Federal Government is in charge of prosecution.

They also said it was too late to withdraw the petition that made the police to investigate the alleged forgery in the first instance.

Some members of the aggrieved Unity Forum asked Saraki to go beyond the shuffling of committees.

They said there could be an out-of-court settlement if Saraki respects the wish of the All Progressives Congress to concede some principal offices to members of the Unity Forum.

The two leaders are standing trial in the High Court of Justice of the Federal Capital Territory for alleged forgery of the Senate Standing Rules 2015 (as amended).

Others in the dock with them are the immediate past Clerk to the National Assembly, Salisu Abubakar Maikasuwa, and the Deputy Clerk to the National Assembly, Benedict Efeture.

The trial has been adjourned to September 28 by Justice Halilu Yusuf of the FCT High Court.

In a deft political move aimed at reconciliation with the senators against him, Saraki on Thursday reconstituted some committees to accommodate his opponents.

The breakdown saw two prominent members of the Unity Forum, Sen. Kabiru Marafa and Suleiman Hunkuyi now given what was termed “strategic and juicy” committees.

The leadership changes in some committees are as follows: Hope Uzodinma (Customs); Adamu Aliero (Aviation); Oluremi Tinubu (Environment); Kabiru Marafa (Petroleum Downstream); Barau Jibril (Tertiary Education); Binta Garba (Women Affairs); Joshua Dariye (Public Procurement); James Manager (Solid Minerals); Eyinnaya Abaribe (Power); Suleiman Adokwe (Information and National Orientation); Suleiman Hukunyi (National Identity); Babajide Omoworare (Legislative Compliance); Baba Garba (Rules and Business) and Tijani Kaura (Federal Character).

The new deputy chairmen of some committees are Ahmed Ogembe (Marine Transport); and Phillip Aduda (Petroleum downstream).

A highly-placed source in the Unity Forum said: “Since the reshuffling of some committees on Thursday, I have lost sleep because Senators loyal to Saraki and Ekweremadu have been mounting pressure on us to forget about the case in court.

“One of the loyalists said since the issue of committees was part of the conditions for peace; we should embrace Saraki and Ekweremadu. The pro-Saraki elements claimed that they are ready for more concessions.

“It appears the shuffling of the committees was a masterstroke to divide the Unity Forum. But they cannot break our ranks.”

Another ranking Senator said a principal officer met with him on Thursday and simply asked: ‘Now that we have reconstituted the committees, will you people (Unity Forum) help us resolve this case now?

“The emissary from the South-East was eager to extract a commitment from me and some members of the Unity Forum with me.

“I reminded the principal officer that the ball is in the court of the Federal Government which is prosecuting the case.

It was however gathered that some Unity Forum members who met after the the committees were shuffled have chosen to press ahead with the forgery case.

At the session, the members said Saraki was yet to “respect the wish of APC on the sharing of principal offices.

The source added: “When we met on Thursday night, we weighed all options and concluded that Saraki has not demonstrated substantial readiness to reconcile with the Unity Forum.

“He redeployed a key and effective member of this forum, Sen. Babajide Omoworare from Rules and Business to a redundant committee. Some Senators were really shocked because Omoworare is a team player.

“The appointment of committee chairmen is not far-reaching because any Senator’s choice is at the discretion of Saraki.

“We can resolve the crisis but after this step, Saraki may reshuffle all the committees again.

“We are at his mercy on committees. Saraki has the sole right to constitute committees without deferring to Senators.

“If we go back on this case because of appointment into committees, we would have proved to Nigerians that we were pursuing the case for selfish reasons.

“We are however committed to peace in the Senate. We concluded that if Saraki is serious, let him respect the wish of APC leadership and heed the advice of President Muhammadu Buhari in choosing principal officers

“In a  letter to Saraki, the APC leadership made the following recommendations:  Senator Ahmed  Lawan (Majority Leader)–North-East; Prof. Sola Adeyeye (Chief Whip)–South-West; Sen. George Akume  (Deputy Majority Leader)—North-Central; and Sen. Abu Ibrahim(Deputy Chief Whip)—North-West.

“And of course, it is not out of place to make Ali Ndume the Deputy President of the Senate to replace Ike Ekweremadu.

‘Even Senators like Ndume are ready to sacrifice their posts for the unity of the Senate if Saraki can bend more to accommodate all.

“You never can tell, we can all decide that Ekweremadu should remain in office if the rapprochement is accommodating.

“If the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara could comply with the directive of the party, Saraki should also do so.

“In fact, we can begin to talk of out-of-court settlement or ask the Judiciary to allow us to address the case at hand internally.”

Credit: The Nation

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PDP Crisis: Sheriff Insist Makarfi Must Resign For Peace To Reign

The factional chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, has called for the dissolution of the Ahmed Makarfi-led caretaker committee as a condition for reconciliation.

He also rejected the choice of Port Harcourt as venue of the party’s National Convention slated for August 17.

The last convention, which was disputed, was held in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.

Sheriff tabled these and other demands as conditions for truce in the PDP.

He told reporters yesterday that he had made it clear to Governors Darius Ishaku (Taraba) and Ibrahim Dankwabo (Gombe) that the caretaker committee was an aberration to the PDP constitution.

The former Borno State governor was receiving a delegation of PDP supporters from 17 local government areas of Abia State who visited him in Abuja.

He asked to be allowed to nominate 10 members into the convention committee, with the Makarfi group also nominating 10 members.

Sheriff said the convention should hold in Abuja.

He dismissed claims that he was the problem with the PDP, saying the crisis in the party was being fuelled by some persons who regard the PDP as their personal property.

He vowed to resist such persons, saying there will be no room for them to operate as long as he remained chairman.

Sheriff said: “People are very interested in our party and how the crisis will be settled before the Port Harcourt convention, which was aborted by a court order.

“Yes, we met and issues were discussed but all the issues I put forward to them was for the Makarfi caretaker committee to resign.

“Since it is (committee) an aberration as far as our party constitution is concern. I told them that I am not ready to be a permanent chairman but I want the party to be placed in proper stead.

“If he resigns tomorrow, I will ask the members of my National Working Committee (NWC) whose tenure will expire in 2018, including myself to resign.

“Then, we will set up a convention committee in Abuja and put respected members and leader at the wards as members of the committee.

“In that convention, I will give away my mandate that does not expire until 2018 and I remain the national chairman of this party until 2018.

“If the leaders of our party felt that we can find a solution without exhausting the pending court processes, then I am open to a political solution.

“There is nothing like what has been reported. If you do not stand on the truth, the end result will be a serious distraction.

The leader of the Abia delegation, Mr. Chidi Nwosu called on Sheriff to look into the flawed congresses in Abia with the view to correcting the anomalies.

Nwosu said the congresses were conducted by a few powerful men who sat in their hotel rooms and picked the delegates.

Sheriff appears to have lost the support of one of his main backers. Senator Buruji Kashamu yesterday called on him to embrace peace.

The senator said it was time for the disputants to bury the hatchet in order to reposition the party for constructive opposition role.

Kashamu who represents Ogun East senatorial district, stated this in a statement in Abuja yesterday.

Kashamu said he opted to join Sheriff at the initial stage because the party leaders did not consult him before removing Sheriff as chairman.

He said: “When I was asked by our leaders to support our revered national leader, Sen. Ali Modu Sheriff, as the national chairman, none of the leaders told me that they had changed their mind.

“Therefore, my support was to maintain the dignity and respect for the office of the National Chairman.

“Disputes and disagreements are part and parcel of any dynamic organization. But while we disagree, we must not throw away the baby with the bath water as true party men and women. There must be room for resolution of the disputes and disagreements.”

“Therefore, I can only plead with our great leader, Sheriff, who has been hurt, to soft-pedal and let go, in the interest of the party and our teeming members. He has shown that he is a principled man and a courageous person.

“Since he and Makarfi have said they are not interested in contesting for the office of national chairman of the party at the national convention, he should encourage all his people to participate in the process leading to the rescheduled national convention.

“ I wish to enjoin all my leaders, elders, associates and supporters in the Southwest to join hands with all our states, zonal and national leaders to move our party forward. Let’s sheathe our sword and put an end to recriminations and infighting”.

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PDP Crisis: Peace Talk Between Sheriff, Makarfi Hits Brick Wall

The much talked about peace talks between the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led Peoples Democratic Party Caretaker Committee and the Sen. Ali Modu Sheriff-led faction, appears to have hit a brick wall.

This followed the insistence of both sides to negotiate from a position of strength.

Findings by Sunday PUNCH in Abuja, on Saturday, revealed that none of the two groups had shifted positions on the contentious issue of who the authentic leader of the party was.

While none had agreed to withdraw the pending litigations in court, each was calling on the other to renounce any claim to the leadership of the party.

Although it is not clear if the Makarfi-led committee has filed contempt charges against Sheriff, the committee’s call for his arrest by the police, has not been rescinded.

It was gathered that the committee also insisted that last week’s judgment by the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, which upheld the convention and its appointment, should remain the basis of any negotiation.

Sheriff and his supporters on the other hand, our correspondent learnt, insisted that since they had appealed the judgement and that other cases were still pending, the judicial process should be allowed to run its full course.

When contacted, the Publicity Secretary of the Makarfi-led Committee, Dayo Adeyeye said, “The issue is very clear, it was Sheriff and a few party members who rebelled against the party. What we have said and have continued to say is that, they should sheath their swords and come back home.

“Our doors have always been open, they should come to the negotiating table and let’s talk. There is really no reason to continue to drag this matter.”

On his part, the Special Adviser(Media) to Sheriff, Mr. Inuwa Bwala said, “The fact which has not changed is that as at today, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff is the National Chairman of our great party the PDP.

“He is ready to receive all party members who due to one reason or another were mislead into going somewhere else. While the cases in court are still on, we are not opposed to a reasonable political solution.”

Credit: Punch

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